|Subject: Lusa: FRETILIN postpones meet on
Govt's future due demonstrations
FRETILIN postpones meet on Govt's future due demonstrations
Dili, June 24 (Lusa) - The leadership of East Timor's ruling FRETILIN party Saturday postponed discussion of the resignation and replacement of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, saying anti-government demonstrators deprived them of "psychological and security conditions".
FRETILIN chairman Francisco Guterres told Lusa the decision to set back the party's Central Committee meeting to Sunday had been communicated to President Xanana Gusmão, who demanded Alkatiri step down earlier in the week to resolve the country's bloody, months-long crisis.
Alkatiri, contacted by Lusa by telephone, confirmed he was ready to resign but said the final decision was up to the Central Committee.
Questioned by Lusa, he acknowledged that the government's No. 2 figure, Minister of State and State Administration Ana Pessoa, was a likely candidate to replace him.
After a raucous, but peaceful, hours-long demonstration outside FRETILIN's national Dili headquarters, which was guarded by Portuguese police, part of a 2,700-strong international peacekeeping force, hundreds of anti-Alkatiri protesters symbolically sealed the nearby parliament building with a blue ribbon.
Parliament, protest leaders threatened, would remain closed until the president dissolved the FRETILIN-dominated legislature and appointed a transitional government to organize early elections.
Regularly scheduled elections are expected early next year.
Guterres, FRETILIN's chairman and Parliament Speaker, told Lusa the party leadership postponed its Central Committee meeting, called to debate Alkatiri's resignation and replacement, because of "the of lack psychological and security conditions" provoked by the demonstrations.
Rescheduled for Sunday, he said the president had been informed the pivotal meeting would only take place if "conditions of access and security" were assured.
On Thursday, the widely popular Gusmão threatened he would resign as president if Alkatiri, caught up in allegations of secretly arming civilian bands during the recent wave of violence, did not step down.
A Dili court placed former Interior Minister Rogério Lobato, whose resignation Gusmão demanded earlier, under house arrest Thursday to await trial on charges of "conspiracy and attempted revolution".
Weapons allegedly distributed to civilians by Lobato were handed over to Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro Saturday in the presence of Gusmão at the president's private home outside Dili.
Monteiro, who heads the investigation into the former interior minister and FRETILIN vice-president, told Lusa earlier in the week that no investigation had yet been opened into allegations by a self- styled government "death squad" that Alkatiri was also involved in a purported scheme to eliminate dissident security forces and political opponents.
The beleaguered prime minister has repeatedly denied the allegations, also raised by Gusmão in his ultimatum to resign, and offered to collaborate with the investigation if requested.
The violent crisis emerged in February when some 600 soldiers, sacked from the army the following month, began protests over alleged regional discrimination in the 1,500-strong military.
A bloody army crackdown against the disgruntled soldiers in late April further split the military and police force, leading to clashes between rival security force factions in the capital and triggering weeks of communal gang arson and looting rampaging.
The arrival of a four-nation, mainly Australian, peacekeeping force in late May quelled the violence that UN officials say killed 37 people and forced most of Dili's population of 130,000 from their homes.
East Timor: Ready to resign, PM Alkatiri says his fate in hands of ruling party
Lisbon, June 24 (Lusa) - East Timor's cornered prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, said Saturday that he was ready to resign and be replaced, but that his fate and that of his government depended on the leadership of his ruling FRETILIN party.
While confirming he was ready to step down as demanded by President Xanana Gusmão, Alkatiri told Lusa other options remained before his party leadership and that FRETILIN's Central Committee would "analyze the whole situation and take decisions".
Alkatiri spoke to Lusa in Lisbon by telephone hours before the Central Committee announced it was postponing a scheduled meeting in Dili to Sunday because anti-government demonstrations had robbed it of the "psychological and security conditions to deliberate".
Earlier, party officials said other scenarios under consideration by FRETILIN to end the political standoff could include the resignation of the entire government and a "compromise" cabinet restructuring proposed by Alkatiri, heavily reducing the prime minister's prerogatives, including surrender of the key oil portfolio.
"To say I've already resigned goes against my principles of devolving the decision to FRETILIN", Alkatiri said, adding that he was "open to any decision" by the party leadership to "avoid an eventual bloodbath".
Questioned by Lusa on whether Ana Pessoa, the cabinet's No. 2 figure, was a possible replacement for him, Alkatiri indicated the minister of state and state administration was a likely possibility if the Central Committee opted for such a solution.
But "to propose someone", one must first "talk to that person", Alkatiri said, noting that Pessoa was in Indonesia Saturday on her way home from attending a meeting of the Lusophone CPLP bloc in Lisbon.
The prime minister also confirmed information, obtained by Lusa from several diplomatic sources, that efforts were being made from abroad to mediate an understanding between Gusmão and Alkatiri.
"I, at least, have been contacted by people in and out of Timor" seeking to broker a negotiated solution for the crisis, he said, adding, however, that he did not know whether similar contacts with the president had been "fruitful".
Diplomats told Lusa that officials from the UN, the European Union and several foreign governments have tried to bring Gusmão and Alkatiri together since the president threatened Wednesday to resign if the prime minister didn't step down.
"Everything that contributes to a stable solution will always have my support", Alkatiri said, acknowledging that UN special envoy Ian Martin, who arrived in Dili Monday, could be an appropriate mediator.
Asked if he thought that dissident army Maj. Alves Tara and the chief of an alleged government hit team, who appeared in public with Gusmão Friday, were part of a scheme to topple him, Alkatiri replied : "Without doubt".
He declined to comment, however, when asked if he considered the president part of a plot to oust him.
East Timor: Alkatiri aide resigns, saying government not functioning
Dili, June 24 (Lusa) - An aide to Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned Saturday, saying East Timor's government was facing serious allegations of wrongdoing and not functioning.
Maria Domingas Alves, Alkatiri's adviser for women's affairs, told Lusa she had informed the prime minister of her decision to step down by telephone because she felt she lacked "the conditions to do so personally".
"He simply replied that he was surprised, adding that I could have contacted him in person instead of by telephone", Alves said.
"I can't continue working and serving Timorese women correctly in a government that doesn't effectively function", she said justifying her decision, adding that she didn't "feel comfortable and secure" at her post given the "many allegations" against the government that "compromise the security of the people".
Alves was the first official of Alkatiri's cabinet to resign since President Xanana Gusmão demanded the prime minister step aside Wednesday.